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‘Charity Row’ a shadow of its former self

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the announcement of its move to the Grand Central neighborhood from the United Charities Building at 105 East 22nd Street, the Community Service Society has joined an exodus of non-profit organizations from the area formerly known as Charity Row.

In a two-block area that used to house the Xavier Society for the Blind, New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Russell Sage Foundation, the Church Missions House at 281 Park Avenue South is one of the last hold-outs of the non-profits in the neighborhood, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The United Charities Building was jointly owned by three different anti-poverty organizations for the last 122 years.

In addition to CSS, which owned 50 percent of the stakes, Children’s Aid Society and New York City Mission Society each held 25 percent of the stakes.

In a press release from last year, the United Charities’ member organizations, which rely on government grants as well as private and foundation giving to sustain their programming, said they were exploring the possibility of a sale in order to leverage resources and assets so they could continue their work.

The Board of Directors for United Charities had voted unanimously to retain a brokerage firm because they realized that the sale of the building in the current real estate market could bring in significant funding for the three organizations.

The building was ultimately bought for $128 million by a Chinese developer which is converting convert the building into condos.

United Cerebral Palsy of NYC, which recently papered up the windows at its East 23rd Street location, sold in 2013 for similar reasons.

UCP Chief Executive Edward Matthews told the New York Times at the time that the organization had decided to take advantage of the lucrative real estate market since government support for the organization had generally been flat or decreasing.

ED MATTHEWS
ED MATTHEWS

A representative told Real Estate Weekly that the East 23rd Street location, which officially closed this past March, wouldn’t be relocated to one specific spot, but services would be redistributed throughout their other locations and they have a new space opening on the Upper West Side soon to offer additional services.

Community Service Society President and CEO David Jones said at the time that the building’s sale was announced last year that the location of the organization’s headquarters is unimportant for its work.

“Positioning the Community Service Society to continue its work and mission of serving low-income New Yorkers requires thinking strategically,” Jones said.

“CSS’s mission is not tied to this building or to our Gramercy Park location. Under that premise, we are exploring a potential sale to augment our endowment and ensure the sustainability of the organization and its mission for decades to come.”

A representative for CSS said that the new building at 633 Third Avenue was chosen for its central location. The new space will also be easier for employees to navigate, since everyone will be located on the same floor, unlike the East 22nd Street space where staff was spread over several vertical floors.

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